Spring Drills Don’t Answer Questions About Miners

 

UTEP wound up its annual spring football training last week so I thought it would be a good idea to ask my crystal ball its thoughts of how things went. I held my nose, took it out of its drawer and posed the question. I was surprised by its answer.

 

“What are you bothering me for?” it said. “You know those spring football drills don’t mean a thing.”

 

“What?” I asked. “You think they’re a waste of time?”

 

“No, no,” it answered. “It’s a big help for coaches and fans in getting to know the players, especially the new ones, and it gives coaches a chance to work on plays and learn more about the ability of their players, especially the new ones. Heck, I enjoy reading Bret Bloomquist’s daily reports in the El Paso Times. But all those spring drills mean nothing as a precursor of how a team will do in the fall."

 

“The reports are the same every year. The quarterbacks are promising, the defense looks good, the offense moves the ball. I could write up a report that could be used every year with blanks to fill in the names. And that’s true not just at UTEP but at every school at every level in the land."

 

“Remember, these kids in the spring are playing against each other. There’s no telling how they’ll match up against other schools or how they’re going to perform in crucial situations. That goes for the coaches, too.

 

“The Miners under head coach Mike Price have shown a tendency the last few years of petering out at the end of the season. What I want to know is will that continue? Will the coaches stop going against the odds and stop calling dumb plays? How good is the opposition going to be? Will the players be in good enough condition to finish the season strong? Why was quarterback Trevor Vittatoe suspended? Is he going to be trouble? Will he make better decisions this year? Who’s going to emerge as a super star? Will Donald Buckram, last year’s surprise, be as good as he was last year?

 

“None of those things can be answered in the spring, only in real games.

 

“Then there’s the importance of the schedule. It seems to be a bit better for the Miners this year. There won’t be any powerhouse like Texas early on. They open at home with what should be a patsy in Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The Cougars may be a problem at Houston in the next game but then the Miners host New Mexico State and Memphis. The Miners, if they’re going to be real Conference USA contenders, could win all four of those early games or at least start 3-1. They might even win their next game at New Mexico and be 5-0 or 4-1 before hosting Rice. And think of it, if they beat the Owls at home they could be 6-0 or 5-1.

 

“Post season play, here come the Miners.

 

“Okay, so I’m dreaming, but it’s possible. Hey, I’m a UTEP grad. We can dream, can’t we?

 

“I know too many UTEP dreams have turned into nightmares. Remember when the Miners were going to start out big by beating Buffalo last year? Yeah, the Miners lost. It’s been so bad the last few years that some El Pasoans think winning four or five games is ‘a golden year.’ My God, have we become so used to mediocrity that we think like that?

 

“The Miners can be winners. Coaches like Mack Saxon, Jack Curtice, Mike Brumbelow, Bobby Dobbs and Bob Stull gave us winners. Even Mike Price gave us winners his first two years at UTEP.

 

“Why not again?”

 

Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com